Most of you know Paul Kemp from his work in the Star Wars universe, but he's an accomplished fantasy author as well (in addition to his insidious work as a lawyer.)
His new book "The Hammer and the Blade" is coming out from Angry Robot on June 26th and I couldn't have been more surprised by it. I'm not a regular reader of sword and sorcery, but between his work in Star Wars and the author's great Twitter persona, I knew I wanted to check it out.
I was not disappointed.
After I grew accustomed to the style of speech and prose (very flowery, but elegant indeed), I was drawn into a compelling adventure story with two characters that are so fun to be with it's ridiculous. Kemp's writing keeps you going and keeps the story snappy and to the point.
The book revolves around Egil and Nix, tomb raiders looking to retire to the life of tavern owners, but they just happened to kill the wrong demon on their last job. Little did they know that an evil sorceror's life depended on that demon being alive to fulfill an unholy pact, and he's going to have to hunt the pair down to make things right. But maybe Egil and Nix don't want to help...?
It's thrill a minute, funny, and thoroughly satisfying.
In honor of the release, I was able to ask Mr. Kemp some questions about the story and the book:
Big Shiny Robot!: What sort of writing do you prefer? Working in your own universe, or an established one like the Star Wars universe? What is the difference in the process, is editing and story approval more or less stringent in the Star Wars universe?
Paul S. Kemp:Overall, I prefer working in my own universe. There are essentially no meaningful constraints on your creativity and I can write a story that fits whatever tone I want it to fit. That said, I think I’ve been very lucky with my tie-in work, in that I’ve faced few constraints on my storytelling in either the Forgotten Realms or the Star Wars galaxy. There are some constraints, of course, some givens of the setting and a certain tone that you can make your own but don’t want to drift too far from, but they’ve been minor.
The approval process is, indeed, more stringent in the Star Wars universe. At least two editors (one for Del Rey and one for Lucasfilm) review outlines and manuscripts to ensure there are no conflicts with other stories, that the story fits the direction they want the line to go (though again, they’ve been very flexible with the stories I’ve pitched), etc.
BSR: Following your twitter feed, you and Nix might seem to be kindred spirits... How much of you do you see reflected in the character?
PK: Ha! I wish I was half as witty as Nix. Nix is the guy who always has the right verbal riposte at the right moment. I’m the guy who thinks up something clever an hour later. Good thing I’m a writer instead of a court jester.
I’ve said in other interviews that writing The Hammer and the Blade was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel (and I’ve had fun writing all of my books). A big part of that was Nix’s voice. He’s just a blast to write.
BSR!: Was it a conscious choice to never get inside Egil's head? I found it fascinating that a book about a duo managed to stay in the head of only half of the duo the entire time without fail, but I never felt like I didn't know what was going on with him....
PK: First, I’m glad you felt that way about Egil. That was my intent and I’m pleased it worked for you.
Second, it was a deliberate choice to stay out of his head. Partially that’s because Nix’s voice is so compelling and having a single POV character (from the protagonist’s side) is a common structure in classic sword and sorcery. But the main reason I stayed out of Egil’s head is that he’s a man with painful secrets in his past, and I don’t want to reveal those until the time is right. To write from Egil’s POV would have necessitated finessing that issue, and I didn’t want to do that.
BSR!: Can you tell us a little bit about Egil and Nix's next adventure?
PK: Sure can! The next novel featuring the duo is entitled A Discourse in Steel, and will be published by Angry Robot in July 2013. I can’t say much about the subject matter just yet – only that it’ll be a fun ride.
BSR!: And the world you created here was so fully realized, will we be seeing more stories not involving Egil and Nix at any point?
PK: Interesting question and one I honestly haven’t considered. For the time being, I’m content to show the world through Egil and Nix’s eyes, but I guess you never know. Tangent: I’m delighted to hear you found the world evocative. That’s a tricky thing in sword and sorcery fiction. On the one hand, it shouldn’t be an encyclopedic reference book for a secondary world (we can leave that to epic fantasy). On the other hand, there still needs to be a strong sense of place. I’m glad to hear it worked for you.
BSR!: As I read the book, I had the voice of Colm Meaney reading it to me. Who do you hear when you're reading this story over? Is it your voice? Is it the voice of the characters? Colm Meaney?
PK: Love that! I guess it reads to me in the voices of the characters: Nix a tenor whose tone goes from charming to viciously sarcastic at the flip of a gold royal. Egil a thoughtful, soft spoken man who can use his baritone as a weapon of intimidation when necessary.
BSR!: What's next for you immediately?
PK: Oh, man, lots of stuff. I’ve got a hardcover Star Wars duology coming out from Del Rey (more details when I’m allowed to offer them), my next novel set in the Forgotten Realms, Godborn, which continues the story of Erevis Cale and crew, and, of course, A Discourse in Steel, which is Egil and Nix’s next caper.
BSR!: For readers of more discerning taste, what is your favorite cigar and whiskey or Scotch?
PK: My favorite cigar is a Dunhill Cabrera – smooth, moderate strength, almost oaky. A cheaper cigar that’s a good smoke for the price is any of the Te-Amo International Selections (they go about $5USD).
Favorite scotch is Ardbeg (when I want something seriously ballsy) or Taliskers (when I want something a bit smoother). Jamesons is a fine, relatively inexpensive blended whiskey, though, and will do in a pinch.
BSR!: And finally: What are you reading right now?
PK: I’m reading Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, and The Weird anthology, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.
Enjoying both muchly.
The Hammer and the Blade comes out June 26th, you can preorder it on Amazon right now.